Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Communication Studies

Document Type



Since the Black family in modernity is often figured outside of and often in juxtaposition to the institutionalized, heteronormative, white, patriarchal conception of the traditional or nuclear family, I argue in this dissertation that the symbolic construction of what I call “familyness” is both a source of social and institutional oppression and a resource for liberation and agency—a necessary symbolic tool for survival in a white supremacist and anti-Black world. Familyness refers, on the one hand, to a specific set of discourses that figures the Black family as non-family—incoherent, inhospitable, incapable, and incompetent and, therefore, outside normative bounds, cultural trappings, and social benefits of the hegemonic construction of the white heteropatriarchal nuclear family. As a queer phenomena, on the other hand, the Black family, owing to its appropriation in African American social and cultural formations, also provides a prism through which we may reconsider black relationality and intimacy, and in turn intraracial counterpublics and movements for social justice. Viewing familyness in this way serves as a modality through which we might reimagine the possibilities, theorizations, and emergence of intraracial contingent coalitions that resist white heteropatriarchy in modernity. Specifically, this dissertation examines how representations and discourses of the Black family, in various iterations, sometimes redeploy and enact an inclusive politic of familyness that begets and reproduces coalitional gestures of black intimacy and social and political resistance.

Committee Chair

Mack, Ashley Noel



Available for download on Monday, June 28, 2027